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‘Extraction’ executes explosive excitement

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Everyone has their particular tastes when it comes to movies. Even those of us whose job it is to offer up opinions regarding films have our personal preferences. And while we strive for objectivity, we also recognize that when it comes down to it, we like what we like. Taste matters.

Take action movies, for instance. There are those out there who find action movies to be generally lacking in appeal, who think that watching bullets and/or fists flying simply doesn’t make for good cinema. They are entitled to their opinion.

Their wrong, wrong, wrong opinion.

“Extraction,” the latest Netflix original offering to hit the streaming service, isn’t the greatest or most original action movie you’ll see … and that’s OK. See, it’s driven by some excellent set pieces and a strong lead performance from Chris Hemsworth, which means that it’s plenty good enough. It isn’t necessary to innovate when you’re willing to embrace the essence of what has always worked.

Adapted by Joe Russo from his own graphic novel “Ciudad” and directed by longtime stunt coordinator and first-time feature director Sam Hargrave, “Extraction” adheres pretty closely to standard action tropes. However, by executing at a high level, the film manages to largely transcend formula, offering viewers a thrilling and exciting two hours of escapist action.

Tyler Rake (Chris Hemsworth, “Avengers: Endgame”) is a former Special Forces soldier turned mercenary living in Australia. Haunted by the tragedies of his past, he has spent a number of years offering up his various skills to the highest bidder.

His latest endeavor is rescuing a kidnap victim. The extraction in question is a young man named Ovi (Rudhraksh Jaiswal, “Kosha”), the son of India’s biggest drug dealer, currently in prison. Ovi’s dad has tasked his primary henchman Saju (Randeep Hooda, “Shooter”) with securing Ovi’s return – it turns out that the boy has been taken by a rival, the biggest dealer in Bangledesh, a sociopath named Amir Asif (Priyanshu Painyuli, “Upstarts”).

Through an intermediary named Nik Khan (Golshifteh Farahani, “Arab Blues”), Rake is hired to lead a team to go into Dhaka and extract young Ovi. While the mission initially goes to plan, things rapidly fall apart when the team is betrayed. Suddenly, Rake is on his own in hostile territory; it is up to him and him alone to keep Ovi alive and find a way out of the city – a city whose police forces are under Asif’s complete control. And Asif’s forces are far from the only dangerous obstacle – there are others who need Ovi to fulfill their own agendas.

It’s a battle for every inch of progress, with Rake having no idea who he can trust. Each moment is about pure survival. However, even as the walls close in, the connection between the mercenary and the boy grows deeper – so deep that the job becomes secondary. It isn’t just Rake’s life at stake here … it’s also his soul.

“Extraction” doesn’t reinvent the wheel. It’s all pretty straightforward and generally familiar; this is a narrative that we’ve all seen before. Grizzled mercenary with a tragic past has some sort of moral reawakening via connection to the subject of his latest job – definitely a familiar tale. However, that familiarity is not a hindrance, because that wheel is turning FAST.

Hargrave’s lack of experience in the director’s chair shows in spots; some of the storytelling choices don’t quite click. However, his depth of experience in the stunt world more than makes up for it; his gift for action aesthetics is apparent throughout. There are a number of legitimately impressive set pieces, including one single-cut sequence of about twelvish minutes that is an absolute home run, a stretch that holds its own alongside anything we’ve seen onscreen in recent years. We’ve got car chases and gunfights and hand-to-hand combat, all of it thrillingly executed.

The film also benefits greatly from having someone like Hemsworth at its center. While the breadth of his talent as an actor has been debated – mostly due to his having been largely relegated to toting a hammer in the MCU for the past decade – there’s no disputing his physical presence and charisma. He’s a ready-made action hero. This movie plays to his physical prowess while also offering a few moments where he demonstrates an ability to empathetically connect. All the right notes, big and small, are hit – he’s excellent.

The supporting cast is largely unknown to American audiences, but it doesn’t matter in the slightest. Jaiswal is great as Ovi; in spots, the narrative reduces him to a mere package to be delivered, but even then, he’s engaged and engaging. Hooda has some great scenes and proves to be an action adept in his own right, while Painvuli endows Asif with the appropriate evilness. Oh, and David Harbour shows up for a couple of scenes – he’s a delightful surprise and as charming as ever.

“Extraction” is two hours of shoot-em-up excitement, a big and loud action offering that asks only that you hang on and enjoy the ride. Again, the story is thin, but the quality of the action is top-notch and the work done by Hemsworth and company is strong. Formulaic? Maybe. Fun? Absolutely.

Again – this movie isn’t great … but it’s still pretty good.

[4 out of 5]

Last modified on Sunday, 26 April 2020 13:05

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